The Internet of Things has made it easier than ever to set up a smart home in which you can remotely control your door locks, lights, thermostats, vacuums, lawnmowers, and even pet feeders, using your smartphone and an app. It’s also made it simple (and relatively affordable) to monitor your home from pretty much anywhere. Smart security systems are highly customizable and available as do-it-yourself kits or as full-blown setups that include professional installation and monitoring.
Depending on your needs you can go with a system that you monitor yourself, or pay a subscription fee to have your home surveilled 24/7 by professionals who will contact your local fire and police departments when alarms are triggered. Of course, the more coverage you have, the more you can expect to pay.
Here’s what to look for when deciding how to secure and monitor your home while you’re away.
Security and Home Automation Streamlined
A smart home security system connects to your home Wi-Fi network so you can monitor and control your security devices using your smartphone and an app. Entry-level systems typically include a couple of door and window sensors, a motion detector, and a hub that communicates with these devices using one or more wireless protocols such as Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, or a proprietary mesh network. You can add extra door, motion, and window sensors to provide coverage for your entire house and build a comprehensive system that includes door locks, garage door openers, indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras, lights, sirens, smoke/CO detectors, water sensors, and more.
Any smart security system worth its salt offers components that work together in a seamless environment and can be manipulated using customized rules. For example, you can create rules to have the lights turn on when motion is detected, have your doors unlock when a smoke alarm goes off, and have a camera begin recording when a sensor is triggered. Some systems store recorded video locally on an SD card or a solid state drive, while others offer cloud storage. Locally stored video is a good choice for do-it-yourselfers on a budget, but you have to be careful not to overwrite video that you may need later. Cloud storage makes it easy to store and access recorded video, but it can cost hundreds of dollars per year depending on your subscription.
If you live in a small apartment and want to keep tabs on your place when you’re not home, a security camera can get the job done for a lot less money than what you’ll pay for a dedicated security system. Nearly all standalone security cameras connect to your home’s Wi-Fi so you can see what’s going on from your phone or tablet, and most have built-in sensors that detect motion and sound and will send push and email notifications when those sensors are triggered. You can usually tweak the camera’s motion sensitivity to prevent false alarms due to pet activity or passing cars if the camera is near a window, and you can create a schedule that turns the sensors on and off during certain hours of the day
Video doorbells offer an easy way to see who is at your door without having to open or even get close to the door. These devices connect to your Wi-Fi network and will send an alert when someone approaches your doorway. They’ll record video when the doorbell is pressed or when motion is detected, and usually offer two-way audio communication that allow you to speak with the visitor from anywhere via your phone.
A Smart lock is typically part of a robust smart home security system, but you don’t have to invest in a full-blown system to use one. If you’re using a home automation hub to control things like lighting and thermostats, you can add a Z-Wave or ZigBee smart lock to the system without much effort. Alternately, if you don’t have a home automation hub, look for a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth lock that comes with its own mobile app. Smart locks use standard pre-drilled holes and are fairly easy to install. Some models use your existing keyed cylinder and deadbolt hardware and attach to the inside of your door, while others require that you remove your existing interior and exterior escutcheons and replace the deadbolt and strike hardware.
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